Not all interactive engagement is the same: Variations in physics professors’ implementation of Peer Instruction

Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 5, 020101 – Published 20 August 2009
Chandra Turpen and Noah D. Finkelstein

Abstract

While educational reforms in introductory physics are becoming more widespread, how these reforms are implemented is less well understood. This paper examines the variation in faculty practices surrounding the implementation of educational reform in introductory physics courses. Through observations of classroom practice, we find that professors’ actual practices differ strikingly. We present a framework for describing and capturing instructional choices and resulting variations in enacted practices for faculty who are implementing Peer Instruction. Based on our observations, there are a variety of scientific practices that are supported and modeled in the use of Peer Instruction. In all of the classrooms studied, students were found trying out and applying new physical concepts and discussing physics with their peers. However, there were large discrepancies in students’ opportunities to engage in formulating and asking questions, evaluating the correctness and completeness of problem solutions, interacting with physicists, identifying themselves as sources of solutions, explanations, or answers, and communicating scientific ideas in a public arena. Case studies of six professors demonstrate how these variations in classroom practices, in aggregate, create different classroom norms, such as the relative emphasis on student sense-making vs answer-making during Peer Instruction.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.020101

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  • Received 16 September 2008
  • Published 20 August 2009

This article is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.

© 2009 The American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

Chandra Turpen and Noah D. Finkelstein

  • Department of Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA

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